Digital survey: new heritage sites revealed?

A comprehensive digital survey of Jersey’s landscape has been completed and is expected to reveal for the first time the full extent of the Island’s incredible archaeological heritage.

A comprehensive digital survey of Jersey’s landscape has been completed and is expected to reveal for the first time the full extent of the Island’s incredible archaeological heritage.


Results from the specialised survey, which was recently undertaken by air, will be carefully analysed and used by Jersey Heritage to inform management of the Island’s archaeology, including sites that might previously have been unrecognised.


The project, which cost £35,500, is being led by Jersey Heritage, with funding from the Government of Jersey, National Trust for Jersey and Richard, Zoe and Emrys Urban.


As well as providing a new archaeological map of the Island, the data will also be used to inform a host of other management policies, such as the Government’s plan for coastal defence needs.


Jon Carter, Jersey Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: “This is a hugely exciting project that will give us a significant insight into what lies beneath the Island’s surface. We have always known that Jersey holds many more archaeological secrets, but this new information will allow us to enhance management of sites we already know about, as well as those which are yet to be discovered.”


He explained that the survey data belongs to Jersey Heritage but would eventually be released into the public domain. “The survey results will be shared with Islanders so that they too can learn the full extent of Jersey’s rich archaeological heritage. However, it is essential that the data is analysed by experts first to ensure that any new sites are protected,” he said.


The LiDAR survey was carried out by Cyient Europe, who were commissioned last year to fly over Jersey, and all the other Channel Islands, and map the landscape in enormous detail. As the survey was weather dependent, it was only able to be completed recently during the sunny, springtime weather. Permission for the survey was obtained from Air Traffic Control, as well as the Seigneur of Sark, Chris Beaumont, because that island is in a no-fly zone.


LiDAR – light detection and ranging – data is usually collected by air and is used to examine both natural and manmade environments. It uses light in the form of pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to Earth. The light pulses – combined with other data recorded by the airborne system – generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the landscape and its surface characteristics.


Although this kind of survey does not penetrate the ground and can only record changes to the topography, including under tree cover and dense vegetation, surface characteristics enable the identification of underlying archaeological structures, as well as a greater understanding of structures above the ground.


LiDAR data is collected for many other reasons, including in the UK by national agencies needing information for flood defence and drainage patterns. 


Jamie Mason, Senior Engineer of the Government of Jersey, said the survey data would be used for a variety of purposes: “It will enable us to record beach levels and over time, multiple sets of survey data can be compared to establish trends and predict beach evolution. This information is critical to sea defence maintenance and design for coastal flood mitigation schemes. The provision of more information about the Island’s archaeology should also enable us to consolidate our understanding of those places that are important to the Island’s archaeological heritage in order that we might better identify, designate and protect them through the planning system.”


PLEASE NOTE – IMAGE NOT OF JERSEY.  Image demonstrates the kind of information a LiDAR survey shows.